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I’m Elinor Renfrew, the course director at Kingston
University for Fashion BA.
It’s a world-renowned course and it’s world renowned because
of its destinations and the students that we have here go
into industry and are some of the best designers in
The course is three years and it is fashion design
and we’re one of the few courses in the UK that only offer
fashion design and our students go on to work as
designers but it may be that they go on to be stylists,
they may go on to be illustrators, they may go on to be
in PR but predominantly they’re design students
and I’m here sitting in the third year studio and you can
see behind me the students working on their collections.
The course is very much about portfolio; it’s well known
for that and Kingston wins awards for portfolio
and for illustration.
Every year in any national competition the students
at Kingston are up there with the winners.
We’re a sponsored course at Kingston, which makes us
We are sponsored by large American companies –
Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers – and in the UK we have
companies such as John Smedley Knitwear,
French Connection and we also have Topman and a
trend forecasting company called Studio M and they
work with us, with the students, to sponsor projects with
competitions exclusively for Kingston.
The students from these competitions win some
amazing places and they go on paid internships to
New York and they go to Brooks Brothers and Banana
Republic over the summer and every year we send about
five students out there and we now have a new sponsor,
Old Navy which is San Francisco and these are
exclusively to Kingston.
In addition we do enter other competitions through
the British Pastoral Council and every year students
from Kingston win awards and win positions,
internships, placements at the companies.
We are studio based here and all the students work
very much together, they support each other,
although they all work in their own areas,
they all know each other, we’re one campus,
we’re one site and there’s a real community and I think
that’s one of the things that we pride ourselves is
the fact the students are proud to be here, the staff
enjoy working with the students, we all work very much as
a community here.
When they leave, the students then come back and want
to work with our fashion students from Kingston
so they will go on and work in the industry alongside
graduates from here.
If you look at the companies all over the world,
most of the design companies in the world will have
Kingston students as their design directors within the
In the UK we have companies like All Saints, Religion,
Paul Smith, there are quite a few companies that are
actually mostly our Kingston graduates in the design team
and also abroad – H&M, Zara, Abercrombie and Fitch in
America, and Zara in Spain.
When we are looking for students to come here,
we’re looking for students who can innovate, that are
creative, hard working. It’s a tough course, it’s very
tough here but they have a lot of staff contact time,
high expectations and working within peer groups
that have high standards. So we’re looking for creativity,
but we’re also looking for students that are completely
dedicated and really want to get a career in fashion
and want to be successful.
They are competitive as well as being supportive
because they realise the industry is getting smaller
and there are more students leaving.
If you come to Kingston, I think it will probably be one
of the best experiences you will get because we are part
of a design school and we work closely within the design
School – 3D design and 2D design – so students get the
opportunity to work with communication design students,
they get to see students from product design, architecture, fine art,
they are all in the same building.
We do collaborative projects within the studio with just
fashion where students will work on a group project on a
trend for a company in London and from that they will
get a paid internship for the best ones from the group.
They will work on styling, they will work on all sorts of
things to do with trend forecasting which is quite different
from design. That’s the only group project we do.
When it comes to third year, they focus very much on
their collections and portfolio and throughout the three years
it’s portfolio, 2D design and 3D design and the
the understanding of taking 2D design into 3D design.
It’s all about working on the body, understanding the
the body from drawing the body, fashion illustration,
toiling, cutting for different silhouettes and really trying
to be quite extreme in what they want to do but also
never forgetting that it needs to end up in a store and
somebody needs to buy it.
We encourage as much creativity across three levels but
professionalism is the one thing that our students are
We also run a professional practice module and that one
is – we work again closely with industry and we bring in
designers who will have their own practice including
Sophie Hulme who is a graduate of Kingston, very
successful graduate from 2007, who will come in and brief
the students. They will do a project and then from that
project they will then produce work in order to gain a
place, with their CV, with their cover letter. So it’s a very
professional package and this helps them when they
come to third year and they find their own company
to work with.
This year we’ve had some very successful outcomes
for that project where third years have secured projects
with Lanvin, Miu Miu, Armani, so it’s global and that
really sets them up for when they leave.
So the whole time at Kingston is about linking with
industry without losing creativity because that’s what
they are looking for. They come to Kingston for
creativity before anything else but also I’m told time and
time again that our students are very employable, they
take it seriously and they are a huge asset in the
workplace as interns but also when they graduate.
We also do trips – next week we’ve got first years going
out to New York and they will visit the sponsors. So go
to the studios and see the kind of companies that they
will be working for on projects in second year. So everything
The staff I have here are very dedicated and they are
are very varied. They all have their own businesses,
I’m the only full time member of staff, but I do that
because I want to bring in people who are already out in
the industry to bring in designers running their own labels
to bring in that expertise into the department,
whether it’s knitwear, whether it’s accessories, whether
it’s menswear, that expertise comes back into the
department and the staff are very very generous with
their time with the students and with their sources and
resources. It’s a complete package here but it’s a
partnership and it’s only going to work if you are
dedicated and you want to be here and we have a very
high retention, we have very few students leaving
Kingston. They want to be here, they want to be part of
the whole experience and I think of all the colleges
and courses that I know, I think we offer a very
diverse, creative and altogether professional package
to any student who would like to apply to Kingston.